Nashville was a city that I knew I would love before I even left home. With its southern charm, lively culture, heart of country music and delicious food, Nashville is a great destination for many! I was able to spend a short amount of time in Nashville last month and have put together some of the highlights from my trip.
EXPLORING DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE:
My original plan for exploring downtown (had about three hours) was to first check out the famous Broadway strip. This road of country bars and restaurants is where the bulk of the performers go to hit it big. Even though I walked through in early afternoon during the week, I was still able to enjoy many live performances.
If you are looking for live music and don’t want to hit the busy Broadway strip, I’d suggest walking along 2nd Avenue (runs parallel to Broadway) for a variety of spots. And if country music just isn’t your type of music, you can find a great offering of lively jazz and blues music at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar. This Cajun venue is also within walking distance of Broadway. Although I didn’t have time to visit myself, I’d put the Bluebird Café on your list. This is an intimate setting for local performers both famous and upcoming. You will want to get tickets ahead of time, as seating sells out quickly.
Next on my list was to walk the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. If you walk on it away from the city for about a mile and turn around, you will get a great landscape view of the city. I had high hopes of a relaxing walk and beautiful pictures of Nashville. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas. Right about when I got to the far end of the bridge is when it started pouring and became crazy windy. Even though I had an umbrella, I was completely soaked. I could feel sitting water in my Nike shoes as I walked back. I don’t think I’ve ever been caught out in a storm that bad before.
It took over a mile to walk back, so by that time I had decided to abandon plan A and execute plan B. Plan B was touring the inside of the Country Music Hall of Fame. After a quick stop in the bathroom to try to dry off (where I met quite a few other women doing the exact same thing), I toured this Nashville attraction. Luckily before it rained, I had walked by it and snapped a few pictures of the outside.
Several floors of this museum are dedicated to bringing to life the entire timeline of country music. It was interesting to read about the transition of the types of music defined as country and what it meant to be a country music performer in different years. During my visit, there were two temporary exhibits: Shania Twain and Faith Hill/Tim McGraw. Both of these I learned a great deal from!
I saw many types of memorabilia including guitars, shoes and outfits from famous country music stars.
One of Elvis’s old cars can also be found here.
It was very cool getting to see an official CMA award in person.
I enjoyed this area that displayed different artists’ original handwriting and sketches of now famous songs they had written.
Following the walk on the bridge, I had planned to walk north to walk through the Bicentennial Capital Mall State Park to see its World War 2 monument and visit the famous Nashville outdoor farmer’s market. This farmer’s market is huge, offering a wide variety of fresh veggies, fruits, homemade bake goods, restaurants and more.
From there I had planned to continue walking north to Germantown. Germantown is a more off the beaten path area with an assortment of restaurants, shopping boutiques and coffee shops. The places I’d planned to check out include Red Bicycle and Crepes, Steadfast Coffee, The Cupcake Collection, Alexis + Bolt and Pieces Boutique. Unfortunately, it was still pouring when I came out of the museum; so I didn’t get to see the farmer’s market or Germantown area. Next time though!
GRAND OLE OPRY:
If you only go one place in Nashville, make it the Grand Ole Opry. Located outside of the downtown area in Opryland (about a 20-minute drive from downtown), this famous building is dedicated to country music and its history. Being inducted into the opry is one of biggest honors a country musician can receive. Each week those who have been inducted over the years (and invited guests) will perform for thousands of visitors on this sacred stage. It is truly one of country music’s greatest honors to be inducted and perform here. And you can sense this appreciation from each and every presenter.
Another thing that makes the Grand Ole Opry so special is that there is not one nightly performer but many! Performances include bluegrass, folk, gospel, modern country, classic country and more. For over two hours, you will hear a great mix of music. Some artists I knew very well and others I had never heard of. I enjoyed each and every performance immensely! For those of you who love country music as much as I do and are curious, here are the performances that I listened to the night I went: John Conlee, Lindsay Ell, Tommy Emmanuel and Jerry Douglas, Drake White, Bill Anderson, The Steel Drivers and Chris Young.
With multi-leveled seating and church pews lining the auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry gave off a feel of holiness and purity. It was neat to hear about people who had traveled all over the world to come spend the evening here enjoying country music. One thing I didn’t realize before I went is that each performance is recorded and played live on the radio, complete with commercials. These breaks allowed for performers to transition off and on the stage. I heard commercials advertising anything from fried chicken to western boots.
My favorite thing about this famous Nashville attraction is the clarity and pureness of sound the building brings out in singers. Unlike in large coliseums and stadiums when voices are sometimes drowned out by background music and other instruments, you could hear every single word so clearly and vividly. There were so many times I sat listening with chills. Even if you aren’t a country music fan, I truly think you’d have a great evening at the Grand Ole Opry. You can also take a backstage tour of the building. Although I didn’t have time to do this, I’d definitely do it if I went back again in order to learn more.
WHERE TO STAY:
The conference I was attending was located at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. With 757,478 square feet, this hotel offers 3,000 rooms and 18 restaurants. It is not an understatement to say this hotel is massive. It is the only hotel I’ve stayed at where at check in they give you a map to tell you how to get to your room. They also post helpful maps on the walls all around the hotel.
What makes this Nashville hotel unique besides the size are the botanical gardens spread throughout the hotel. You can wander around on several levels looking at beautiful plants and flowers. Many waterfalls are also scattered throughout the Gaylord. One waterfall was tucked away and had a bench right in front of it, making it the perfect location to sneak away to relax. The time and detail dedicated to these gardens truly is amazing.
I loved seeing all these succulent plants.
My room had a balcony overlooking the gardens. I spent time out here in the early mornings enjoying the view.
As far as food goes, I did try a few of the restaurants. If you are looking for a quick bite to grab and go (perfect for those attending conferences and needing a quick lunch), I’d recommend Paisano’s Pizzaria and Vino. They offer pizza to order by the slice, along with prepared side salads. At Stax you could also order to go style. Stax offered burgers and fries. The burger was as delicious as it was massive. It was one of the few burgers I haven’t been able to finish. For a sit down restaurant, I’d suggest Solario. Solario offers a variety of Mexican dishes. Both the homemade guacamole and New Mex Enchilada, topped with a delicious avocado goat cheese crema, were excellent.
Pros of this hotel include the experience of enjoying the beautiful tropical plants and flowers and the convenience of many restaurants, shopping and coffee shops all within your hotel. If you are staying for a conference, it is super convenient to be able to walk to your conference and back to your room each day. You can also walk to both the Grand Ole Opry and the Opry Mills Mall. A pedestrian walking path leads you right where you need to go. Parking is very bad at both the Grand Ole Opry and the mall, so you save a lot of time and hassle being able to simply walk.
A few cons also exist here and I want to make sure I point them out to paint an accurate picture. The main con for me was the service. This hotel is owned by Marriott and did not match the standards of other Marriot hotels I’ve stayed at. Service in restaurants was very slow and understaffed. I also dealt with a broken elevator (luckily had to only walk down five flights of stairs) and not having my free bottled water restocked every day as promised. The room itself was older and nothing special, although I was in the oldest area. The best part of the room was definitely the balcony.
Personally, if I was visiting for a vacation and recommending to readers where to stay, I’d stay downtown mainly because it is close to everything minus the Grand Ole Opry. I would definitely still suggest you visit Gaylord Opryland. But just allocate a few hours one day to walk through the gardens and to enjoy a bite to eat at one of the restaurants. The bulk of the restaurants do have amazing view of the flowers and waterfalls. That way you wouldn’t miss out seeing it, will be staying at a more convenient location and save money overall. Another option is to split your stay between downtown and Gaylord Opryland.
WHERE TO EAT:
One of the things that impressed me most about Nashville was the food! And I know that I barely scratched the surface. I didn’t even get to try the famous Nashville hot chicken.
My favorite find was the Butcher and Bee restaurant. Besides this Nashville location, they also have one in Charleston, South Carolina. So if you visit there, you can try Butcher and Bee as well. Some of my favorite restaurants are ones with always-changing menus and a farm to table presence and this one was no exception. Butcher and Bee partner with local farms to provide fresh, handpicked ingredients and flavors. And what a great partnership there is!
Before visiting Nashville, I’d received a recommendation from a Facebook group to try the whipped feta at this restaurant. It was a wonderful recommendation. I rank it as one of the top ten things I’ve ever eaten in my life. It was that good. This feta was topped with fermented honey and cracked black pepper and sprinkled with fresh herbs.
For my entrée, I was debating between the burger and the highly-popular avocado crispy rice. After a recommendation from the waitress to go for the avocado crispy rice and a voice in my head reminding me of how many burgers I’ve eaten in my lifetime, I chose to be different. This dish had rice, winter greens, peanuts, serrano chiles and a ton of avocado. I topped it with shawarma spiced chicken thighs to add protein. It too was wonderful and I would highly recommend it. Service here was excellent. I will also point out they offer a brunch that I’m sure is outstanding.
The City Tap House is located in the heart of downtown, within walking distance from Broadway Street. Offering a variety of contemporary American cuisine and a neat atmosphere, I’d recommend visiting this Nashville restaurant. A unique find on the menu for a starter is the cheese steak egg rolls. I love both Philly cheese steaks and egg rolls but had never combined the two. They were delicious! For a meal, I enjoyed the grilled ribeye steak and shoestring fries. An herb butter and truffle aioli accommodated this meal, adding a nice touch.
And for a To Pass Less Traveled recommendation, I introduce you to the Pancake Pantry. The Pancake Pantry in Hillsboro Village has been around in Nashville since 1961. And I can guarantee you it isn’t going anywhere. Lines here are common; the pancakes are that good! If you don’t want to wait outside in a long line, go early. They open at 6am every morning. The atmosphere is your typical small-town diner – warm, friendly and very casual. I tried the traditional pancakes but the taste was anything but common. The entire time I was eating these pancakes, I was trying to figure out the secret ingredient that made them so special. They have a listing of over 20+ types of pancakes you can try including banana bread, sweet potato, sugar and spice and chocolate chip. You can also get traditional breakfast side items here including eggs, sausage, bacon and ham.
Even though my time in Nashville was quite short, I was able to see some of the major sites and get a good feel of the city. I loved my time in Nashville and can’t wait to go back and visit someday.
Paths Less Traveled Ranking: 4 footprints
Paths Less Traveled Ranking Explanation: Nashville is a busy and populated city with more and more people moving to and visiting each year. But this in no way takes away from the excitement of visiting.
*In each of my articles I will provide a Paths Less Traveled Ranking. This ranking system is from 1 footprint to 5 footprints with 1 footprint being very remote and off the beaten path and 5 footprints being very populated.